Phil Hughes should start on Tuesday

McAllister dominant in Trenton win
The A-Rod Watch never stops

Please ignore the title of this post for just a moment. Let us review Chien-Ming Wang‘s performance in Extended Spring Training today, complete with instant commentary.

7 innings — 91 pitches, 70 strikes

9 hits

5 runs, 4 earned

0 walks

11 strikeouts

That’s two too many boos for my liking. The report from Nardi Contreras wasn’t much better. From Feinsand (well, really McCarron):

“Maybe it’s the arm strength, not getting enough innings pitched last year,” Contreras said. “He hadn’t pitched in eight months. With arm strength, it’ll be easy for him to get the ball down. More arm strength, more velocity. The man didn’t pitch for eight months. It takes time to get it back.”

That last line is the most troubling. The Yankees don’t exactly have time for Chien-Ming Wang to re-find himself in the majors. While Nardi was also complimentary of Wang, noting his slider was “the best [he has] ever seen and he threw a lot of real good changeups.” His very next utterance, though: “When his sinker was down…” Need I go any further? His sinker was down in the first inning on Saturday and it didn’t stop the Indians from tattooing him in the second. If the Yanks aren’t sure that Wang is over his belt-high woes, they can’t continue to run him out for starts.

As many of the beats have suggested, the Yanks could opt to place Wang on the disabled list. Given the information available right now, I think it’s pretty clear that this is the ideal course of action. If the Yankees can place Wang on the DL they can line him up for two or three minor league rehab starts where he can continue to work on his issues without costing the big league club. It also gives the Yankees an opportunity to bring in Phil Hughes and see how he’s progressed from last year.

What poses better odds: that Phil Hughes pitches as badly as Chien-Ming Wang, or that Chien-Ming Wang miraculously returns to form? Give me the former. There’s no doubt Wang can become what he was before, but it’s not a situation where, as Brian Cashman said, “it’s ‘pow,’ fixed right away.” It might take some time. Since Wang is out of options (and for those who asked and were not answered, Wang was added to the 40-man roster in 2003 and is definitely out of options), the only way to get him real work and to free up the roster spot necessary is to place him on the disabled list. I’m sure the Yankees can cook up a reason why.

The silver lining in this is that if Wang returns to form and Hughes is pitching well, the Yanks all the sudden have a nice problem on their hands. As we found out after Xavier Nady‘s injury, you can never, ever have too much depth.

McAllister dominant in Trenton win
The A-Rod Watch never stops
  • Manimal

    I think he just decided to do nothing once his foot ended his season. He should have worked out and done arm exercises. His arm isn’t strong enough and he needs to gain that strength back. It won’t be easy but he will get there.

    • handtius

      I think it’s his lower-body strength that needs more time. he doesn’t have enough confidence is is bad leg to really push off. get that strong forward motion. It’s making his arm do all the work and it can’t take it. it’s getting left behind and the ball isn’t sinking enough because of it.

  • The Honorable Congressman Mondesi

    Oh, now it all makes sense. You’re so creative.

  • Rich

    The thing that doesn’t make sense is why the Yankees have been so adamant, up until the last few days, that Wang wasn’t injured, when it has been apparent to anyone with a working brain that his arm strength has appeared to be significantly diminished, and that sending him to Tampa, followed by several rehab starts, was the most prudent course of action.

  • Mike

    Here a question i got: Lets say Hughes comes up and pitches well, Wang builds up his arm strength & gets back to his old form and Joba is struggle with his control and isn’t going long in his games; Does hughes still go back to the minors or does he stay and joba go back to the place where he is it his best: the bullpen?

    • Joseph Pawlikowski

      If you are shortsighted and care about 2009 to the detriment of your near- and long-term future, yes.

    • Slugger27

      dude, the only way joba goes back to the bullpen is if he undergoes multiple injuries each year for like the next 3 years while being a starting pitcher

    • Rich

      Joba’s 2008 ERA:

      As a starter: 2.76
      As a reliever: 2.31

      Given the significant value advantage that a starter has over a setup reliever, I don’t think it’s accurate to say that he is at his best in the pen.

      My guess is that Hughes will only remain in the rotation if he dominates hitters.

    • Darth Stein

      Wow – you B-Jobbers are just grasping at anything these days aren’t you?

    • Hobs

      You know what grinds my gears?

      B-Jobbers pulling facts from their ass:
      “the place where he is it his best: the bullpen”

    • A.D.

      Maybe in that scenario they’d put Joba in AAA and let him build up innings.

      Either way Joba needs & will get innings this year.

    • Hobs
    • B-Jobber

      What IF everytime Joba goes over 30 pitches his fingernails fall off? Then the Yankees should move him to the bullpen, right?
      What IF Joba goes out on his off days and robs banks? Would the Yankees then start thinking about moving him to the bullpen to focus on the games?
      What IF Joba gets on a bus, but then finds out the bus is wired with a bomb and it has to stay at a speed of over 55 mph or it will blow up, do the Yankees then think about moving him to the bullpen which is closer to the subway?

      • Doug

        this comment, I enjoyed it

  • Let’s Talk About TEX Baby

    On baseball tonight they showed a comparison of Wang’s 08 delivery compared with 09. In 09 his leg kick wasn’t as high and when he went to the plate he clearly didn’t use his back foot to push off like he did in 08. It was only 1 pitch vs. 1 pitch but from this perspective it seemed pretty clear that the foot’s not 100%.

    If they do decide to put Wang right back in the rotation why not call up Hughes anyway to be his caddy of sorts. If Wang looks bad put Hughes in to keep us in the game rather than letting things get out of control with the Anthony Claggets and Steven Jacksons of the world. I know its unorthodox to use a top prospect in this way, but Hughes really doesn’t have much left to prove in the minors.

    • Slugger27

      i think thats silly… lets say wang gets it back together (which we all hope he does) then hughes is just sitting on the bench not pitching, not working on his cutter, not building up his innings… i think the guy for a role like this would be aceves (someone that could give a starter’s amount of innings but isnt a top prospect they want to develop)

    • K.B.D.

      Building innings isn’t something Hughes can do waiting to come in for mop-up duty.

      • huuz

        that belies the fact that SPs rely on a routine to help them succeed.

    • Darth Stein

      That doesn’t sound like a good approach. If Wang can return to form than they should put him back in the rotation and have Hughes in AAA. If Wang cannot return to form then hope that Hughes can hold down the spot. I really don’t see any middle ground. A scenario where CMW starts, gives up 7 runs in the first two innings, and then Hughes comes in for mop up to save the bull pen is just nuts. That scenario does not help CMW, it certainly does not help Hughes, and it really does not help the Yankees. I think the only parties that scenario helps are Boston, Tampa, and whatever team the Yankees are playing on CMW/”gift” day in the rotation.

    • A.D.

      In this scenario essentially you’re saying that Wang won’t give you a chance to win the game, if that’s the case he won’t be starting games for the Yankees.

      • Matt

        If that happens, Wang continuing to be ineffective, do you put Wang on the 60 day, give Hughes his spot and then add Melancon to the 40 man and call him up?

  • inman

    looking at wang’s results today i notice that 1 of every 10 pitches went for a hit. i’d say he isn’t ready for his next start.

    time to give phil 3 starts and see how he does.

  • Tom Zig

    I’m waiting for you guys to create RAB’s own version of GameDay/GameCast.

  • Tony

    Put Wang on the DL for arm fatigue and let Phil Hughes do his thing.

  • Peter Lacock

    No big, Wang shoulda been in ext spring with all the other rehabbing players but it’s better this way anyway, he bought some time for Hughes to get ready in SWB. It would’ve been nice if he had another month to prepare but it’s gonna be great to see what he can do. He must be pumped. IPK and Ace must be thinkin they’re next. It’s a loong season and if I’m bettin, I’m bettin we need them all.

  • V

    You know what? And I don’t say this lightly.

    I’d rather have Kennedy up first than Hughes. Hughes is still working on pitches in AAA, where you can work on them, work on your command, etc. He’s not ready yet. If his curveball is ‘off’, he can play with it in AAA – he has to scrap it completely at the ML level.

    If Kennedy does well, it ups his future trade value (he WILL be traded at some point, as he’ll never be higher than the Yankees’ 6th starter).

    If Kennedy is mediocre, and Wang is out a significant length, then Hughes.

    • Trapped In El Duque’s Glove

      If Kennedy does well, it ups his future trade value (he WILL be traded at some point, as he’ll never be higher than the Yankees’ 6th starter).

      I’m not sure this makes sense, how can you peg Kennedy’s ceiling as the 6th starter? We had Ponson and Rasner in the rotation last year and I’d take Kennedy over either of those any day of the week!

      If Kennedy came up next season and ended up being a cost-controlled 5th starter for the following 5 years+ he’d be incredibly valuable to the Yankees.

      He’s, what, 24? Give the kid a break.

      • jon

        and who cares if he ends up being our 6th starter?

        if i had my druthers id want my rotation be so stacked roy halladay was my 6th guy

        IPK can be a good 3/4 rotation guy why wouldnt we keep him as back up while hes cheap?

        • V

          Because his trade value is likely greater than his value to the Yankees as a AAA ace?

          I’m not saying toss him away for a backup catcher.

          • Trapped In El Duque’s Glove

            That still doesn’t make a lot of sense.

            Kennedy pitching well in AAA, continuing to learn his craft, and being ready to step up to the Majors if we need him is of considerably more value than we could get for him in a trade.

            If the last few years have shown us anything, it’s that starting pitching depth is vital.

            • Ed

              Kennedy pitching well in AAA, continuing to learn his craft, and being ready to step up to the Majors if we need him is of considerably more value than we could get for him in a trade.

              Well, Marquez was the most interesting name in the Nick Swisher deal. Kennedy is a lot better than Marquez, so you should be able to get something decent for him. I can’t see Kennedy’s value bouncing between AAA and the majors as being greater than Swisher.

              • MattG

                Swisher’s contract and Ozzie’s disdain for working the count were the major factors in the Swisher deal. The Yankees got a steal, and if they could have Swisher’s equivalent for Ian Kennedy, Cashman should be arrested.

                • jsbrendog

                  confused. as in if he trades kennedy for swishers equivalent he should be arrested? or if he could have swisher’s equivalent for kennedy and doesnt pull the trigger?

                • MattG

                  arrested for stealing, as in he would be a stealer of things.

                  I’m a funny guy, but for some reason, I can’t write funny at all. I wonder how that works, as I know people who aren’t funny at all, but write hilarious stuff.

              • Trapped In El Duque’s Glove

                Agree up to a point, but my original comment was that Kennedy could be a cheap, solid, 5th starter for years to come – I’d say that’s much more valuable than a decent right fielder.

  • Joe R

    Can we really boo the hits/runs? We werent there to see what kind they were. For all we know they were balls hit that everyday major leaguers would make. He is in extended spring training afterall

  • Januz

    If Hughes pitches well, and there are no other injuries, I could see Wang being finished in a Yankee uniform. Cashman obviously knew something, when he decided not to give him a long term contract.
    I am actually very happy where the Yankees are right now: If you would have told me coming out of Spring Training that I would have no Alex Rodriguez, Xavier Nady is on the DL, Wong is 0-3, Sabathia is below average, and Andy Petitte would be my best pitcher at the end of April, I would have predicted the cellar or close to it. Instead, we are 3.5 games in front of Tampa and tied with Boston in the standings (No one thinks Toronto will contend). They are getting Rodriguez and Nady back next month, and they are in good shape as far as the farm system is concerned (Melancon and Kennedy come to mind). I like their chances.

    • Matt

      I could see Wang being finished in a Yankee uniform.

      Easy now; that’s a little much.

    • MattG

      And very lucky to be there, too. At some point, the Yankees will lose a stretch of close games, just like they’ve managed to win a stretch in the early going. The trick will be to mix in a couple of 22-4 games for the good guys.

      • jsbrendog

        think about it tho, one or two bullpen blowouts away from having 2 mroe wins.

        • Sweet Dick Willie

          Don’t forget the Girardi loss in KC.

  • Slightly Cordial Axl

    If the Yankees throw Wang out there after ONE poor-to-mediocre extended spring training game…I’ll seriously question the direction and willingness this team even has to succeed.

    Maybe it is lack of innings…maybe he’s favoring his un-injured foot…maybe he’s just coincidentially getting tattooed around every game doing what he’s always done (though I doubt that one very much)…fact of the matter is…they need more than one poor extended spring training game before they sent him out there again. His starts are making Kei Igawa’s, Ian Kennedy’s, and Phil Hughes’ poor starts the past few years look like Godsends…

    Also, has anybody noticed how the Red Sox are continuously playing teams with superstar(s) coincidentially out of the line up with injuries…but then we play them and they are of course back. BJ Upton was out in their first series only to return immediate when we played them (even though we took 2 of 3 and sox lost 2 of 3 doesn’t matter)…they play the already anemic Twins without 2 time batting champion Joe Mauer on their team. And now we, the Yankees, come into Fenway without debatebly the best hitter in baseball Alex Rodriguez in our line up and to make matters worse…Cody Ransom inserted into the mix. How can one team continue to be so lucky?? The best was their 2007 playoff scenario where they literally played one good team to win it all…The Indians. The injury riddled beaten up Angels and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Rockies were a joke. It’s amazing how the luck has shot up over the past few years for them. Seems like the exact opposite has happened for us…

  • A.D.

    9 hits and 4 runs in 7 innings in a extended spring game isn’t good even if he did K 11

    • MattG

      I don’t know, I assume he had EST fielders, too. They probably catch the ball worse than they hit it. He walked nobody, and nothing left the yard…that sounds good.

      But to get to 11 strikeouts, I imagine the ball had to be up over the belt a good deal.

      • Matt

        I think you’ve gotta take the hits/runs and K’s with a grain of salt considering it was EST. I’m sure some hits got by that might not have gotten by with MaL fielders but I’m definitely sure some of the K’s came because of immature EST hitters.

      • Slightly Cordial Axl

        The Indians didn’t want to walk last Saturday! Why would they have taken a walk?? It was literally like taking batting practice…except the hits counted! It was like being in a batting cage. The zero walks does absolutely nothing for me. The hits are what scare me. If he gave up 11 hits in a fake spring training game…that basically tells me nothing has changed and he’s going to get roped around like he has the first 3 starts…

        • MattG

          I think it was 9 hits, in 7 innings. If they were ground balls through the infield, I might not have a problem with that.

          Really, the boxscore means nothing. Where were the pitches? I need the pitch FX data to tell me how to feel!

          • HolyGhostClaw

            You need your art spoon fed to you…

            • MattG

              What does that mean? RAB inside joke?

              • jsbrendog

                that would be an outside joke. or lack thereof

  • MattG

    I wonder if they’re setup for pitch FX wherever this happened. If I were a pitching coach, I don’t think I could do my job without it now.

  • Trapped In El Duque’s Glove

    I’m curious to know how the Yankees coaches missed this if arm strength is really such an issue? Given his eight months out he must have been on a particular work out schedule to ensure he retained his muscle strength?

  • Slightly Cordial Axl

    It’s funny if arm strength really is an issue…how perfectly orchestrated it all turned out…how he didn’t pitch that badly in Spring Training…or so it looked…only for once the actual season immediately began…for him to be a complete and utter disaster…setting world records for poor starts and pitching performances.

    It’s really amazing how that works…

  • AndrewYF

    Is this Hughes’ last option year? He was put on the 40-man in 2007, but was he optioned down when he got injured? We do know that he was optioned in 2008, and obviously again in 2009.

    • Joseph Pawlikowski

      I don’t believe he was ever optioned in 2007. He came up pretty quick after his rehab starts following the injury.